Home Blog January 2016 Northern Food Insecurity is About More than Just the Price of Food

Northern Food Insecurity is About More than Just the Price of Food

Northern Food Insecurity is About More than Just the Price of Food
In Canada’s territories, 1 in every 5 households skips meals because there isn’t enough food in the house, or eats suboptimal food because they can’t afford better. This has drastic negative consequences for the health of northerners.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in northern Canada are experiencing a destabilizing transition from a subsistence to a market economy. Decreased access to traditional foods and increased reliance on store-bought goods are central aspects of this transition, due to factors including:
  • The effects of the residential school trauma, including the loss of traditional knowledge of how to hunt and survive on the land;
  • Changes in animal behaviour and availability due to climate change and other factors;
  • High costs related to hunting and trapping;
  • Decreased appetites for a traditional diet among a quickly growing youth population.
In the North, particularly outside the major cities, the cost of store-bought food can be astronomical. The high cost of food, a lack of job opportunities, high levels of poverty, and decreasing consumption of traditional foods have combined to create a serious and pressing public health emergency.  
Recommendations to Increase Northern Food Security
Our HungerCount 2015 report includes a number of ideas to reduce northern food insecurity. For example, we need to enhance initiatives that grow northerners’ ability to acquire traditional foods in a changing climate, including programs that grow access to the increasingly expensive tools required for hunting on the land.
Additionally, while there is much emphasis on the cost of food in the north, we don’t talk enough about income in vulnerable communities. To this end, the HungerCount recommends replacing the current system of last-resort social assistance with a basic income that is tied to the true cost of living in various regions of Canada. 
We have also made a number of recommendations for the Nutrition North Canada program, for example highlighting the need to set targets for the program’s impact on the cost of food in isolated northern communities.
The new Liberal Government has promised to invest an additional $40 million in Nutrition North Canada, and we are hopeful that this investment will be included in the upcoming federal budget. In the next few months, we will be releasing several research papers that will offer guidance on further changes that we believe will significantly increase access to good, healthy food in the North.

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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)